City Of Angels
Rating -

Romance (US); 1998; Rated PG-13; 114 Minutes

Nicholas Cage: Seth
Meg Ryan: Maggie
André Braugher: Cassiel
Dennis Franz: Messinger
Colm Feore: Jordan
Robin Bartlett: Anne

Produced by Robert Cauallo, Alan Glazer, Jeff Levine, Arnon Milchan, Charles Newirth, Charles Roven, Douglas Segal, Kelley Smith-Wait and Dawn Steel; Directed by Brad Silberling; Screenwritten by Dana Stevens

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Before you see "City Of Angels," at first put the phrase "curiosity killed the cat" squarely out of your mind. Such a saying simply does not apply at a movie like this. The main character, Seth (Nicholas Cage) is a curious angel whose curiosity to human life provokes the greatest moments of his existence. Curiosity, for him, is a blessing. Without it, he would be doomed to an angel background for all eternity.

"City Of Angels" is a risk that works. It risked destroying the popular story told in a movie called "Wings Of Desire," but manages to update it so that the freshness and passion still exist within the characters and the story. It is a triumph of conception, camera movements, and emotional feelings, all of which exist on a plain only accessible through the minds of Seth and Maggie (Ryan), two characters who tie themselves into a knot of surreal human beauty and bold love. Seth is an angel who watches closely at the humans he's around, and envies their humanity. When he runs into Maggie, a surgeon, he instantly finds an attraction in her that normally an angel-like figure would not posses the ability to do so. He follows her around, unseen, and then Maggie turns and sees him, though it's not supposed to happen. Angels must be unseen by human eyes, but still, Maggie sees. Each character here as a bind that breaks all boundaries and borders. They are unique down to the core, and special right up to the top.

Oh, but it's not that simple. Sure, they may have abilities not normally given to their kind, but such abilities have their limits. Seth and Maggie grow closer and closer, all to the point where Seth wants to give up his an angel background to be with her. But can he do that? After all, he's an angel, and the human race needs them.

In order to find out if his lust for humanity can be reached, he turns to an interesting character billed as Messinger, who, according to he, was once an angel himself. It is possible, as he states, to give up his an angel background for self-humanity, but he must have good reason, otherwise the answer is obviously 'no.'

This is a simple love story, but still, a big risk. It's not easy to inspire a movie like this off of a film like "Wings Of Desire," which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest films ever made. Normally when these things are done, stories are reset in the modern days, and the resets often accompany problems and glitches that severely deteriorate the possibility for a decent remake. Think for an instant of "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet." Updating Shakespeare's immortal classic may have been a good idea, but it certainly didn't seem like it after seeing the final product. Not only did it remove the flavor from the original play, but also brought in some of the most annoying aspects of modern-day conversions, like over-obsessive love stories, poor dialogue, and dimwitted scripting.

One thing "City Of Angels" manages to do is keep everything at a normal, watchable level, and though I thought "Wings Of Desire" is a movie ten times better, this film works nearly on every level, making for a memorable experience, and one of the best love stories currently around.

It seems like these romance movies suffer the most in modern-day conversions. "City Of Angels" risked placing itself among the most horrible movies of our time, but managed in the end to provoke the nostalgia and beauty of the old romance pictures. It is one of the greatest films of 1998, and a picture that asks one important question--unless we take risks, how would we get great movies?

© 1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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